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BC NDP leadership candidate David Eby visits Kamloops

The former attorney general’s appearance came on the eve of the release of the provincial government's prolific offender’s report
David Eby Sept 20 22
David Eby speaks to BC NDP members and others at the Smorgasbord Deli in downtown Kamloops on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

David Eby told a Kamloops crowd on Tuesday evening (Sept. 20) that, if he wins the BC NDP leadership contest, he will implement the recommendations of a report on prolific offenders he commissioned while in the attorney general’s office.

The report will be released on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at a 1:30 p.m. press conference that will include Solicitor General Mike Farnworth and Attorney General Murray Rankin in attendance.

In May, the provincial NDP government hired two experts to investigate and report back within 120 days on prolific offenders and random violent attacks and the necessary actions needed to address the problem.

The two experts hired were Doug LePard, a retired police chief and an independent criminal justice sector consultant, and Amanda Butler, a health researcher and criminologist whose specialties include mental health, substance-use disorders, criminal justice systems and prison health.

A prolific offender is a person who has between 10 and 29 criminal convictions.

Eby, MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, is on what he called a “listening tour of B.C” as he seeks the party leadership in the wake of Premier John Horgan’s decision to step down. Challenging Eby for the leadership are declared non-MLA candidates Anjali Appadurai and Cherry Smiley.

However, as of Sept. 20, Eby is the lone leadership candidate approved by the BC NDP provincial executive, based on application package and fee rules.

Candidates must pay a non-refundable registration fee of $40,000, with the initial $15,000 instalment due by Oct. 4 and the final $25,000 portion due by Oct. 19. 

The leader will be chosen by members who had a membership card by Sept. 4, which was the deadline for new party members to sign cards in order to vote. The leader will be revealed on Dec. 3.

Speaking to BC NDP members and others at the Smorgasbord Deli in downtown Kamloops on Tuesday, Eby said the report was commissioned in a bid to address the so-called catch and release justice system, in which repeat offenders are arrested, released in court, then arrested again.

“I think this report will provide a helpful road map for us to do that work,” Eby told the crowd.

He noted criticism he received when the report was commissioned this past spring, with critics calling for him to take action on the issue, rather than study the problem.

“The challenge was identifying areas where the provincial government can make a difference effectively, rather than just say we spent a million dollars on this project here and a million there,” Eby said.

In April, Eby reiterated his stand that Crown counsel is being wrongly blamed for doing its job of implementing federal law and referenced Bill C-75, which cites using a principle of restraint for police and courts to ensure that release at the earliest opportunity is favoured over detention.

The issue of crime and drug use was raised at Tuesday’s meeting by an elderly woman who lives in a downtown seniors’ apartment building. She said she and others feel like hostages in their homes due to the presence of people in the area loitering in alleys and on sidewalks and using drugs in the open.

She asked Eby to explain the root cause of why more and more people are ending up on the street.

Eby cited a conversation with a doctor whose research showed a significant common thread in those dying by overdose is the act of dropping out of school. Eby also noted his provincial government is targeting release from prisons and hospitals and youth aging out of care, as those three are major factors in people becoming homeless.

Candidates converge

Among civic election candidates at Eby’s Smorgasbord Deli appearance were mayoral aspirant Sadie Hunter (BC NDP candidate in Kamloops-North Thompson in the 2020 provincial election) and councillor candidate Nancy Bepple (BC NDP candidate in Kamloops-South Thompson in the 2017 provincial election).

Also in attendance were councillor candidates Mac Gordon, Taj Sandur and Randy Sunderman, along with School District 73 trustee candidate Cole Hickson.